{ how has your life been touched by AIDS? }

I know a few people who live in fear of it every day. I also know someone who was struck recently with HIV. I's not fun watching friends sit petrified in waiting rooms, dreading and anticipating the answer they're going to get.. Are they going to live a few more years? Some of the most alive people on this planet are dying.

Lynnea {overgrownfaerie@aol.com1 Dec 2000



I was called by the Red Cross and asked to come in and take an AIDS test. A patient that had been given my blood during surgery had developed AIDS. The worker at the Red Cross assured me that the staff there felt that the individual was infected due to lifestyle and not the transfusion, but that they had to do this to be sure. The attendant told me her name and instructed me to ask for her at the front desk.

As I walked into the crowed waiting room, I was very apprehensive. It had been a week since that phone call...an entire week to look back over my entire life and examine some of the choices I had made. My girlfriend and I were sexually active, and she had suffered that week along with me. It was only fair to tell her and we handled it better together.

When I walked up to the desk, it was past 4:30 and the normal receptionist had gone. The security guard that had replaced her did not know the lady I was requesting and informed me she had probably already left. When I told him I had an appointment with her, he asked me what for. I hesitated...and just repeated that it was an appointment.

"She's gone," he replied..."what are you here for?"

"I need to have a test done." I said

"What kind of test?" He asked impatiently. He was getting irritated and people were starting to notice our conversation.

"An AIDS test." I said, as low as I could.

"An AIDS test?! Why didn't you say that when you first came in, it's through that door, I'll call the people back there and they'll come get you, sign in here." He pointed to a pad on the desk.

He had made that declaration as loud as he could, and everyone in there suddenly focused on me. My neck got hot, and I nervously took a seat. People were visibly edging away from me. It was the longest 15 minutes I had ever spent in a waiting room.

After waiting, the nurse came and got me and they took some blood. The level of precaution they took with me was impressive, but understood.

It took a week for the results to come back. During that week every emotion I could possibly have rolled through my mind...what was I going to do if it turned out positive? For that week, I was in limbo.

Finally the call came...the nurse over the phone told me the results were negative. The burden lifted.

While it hardly compares to the horror and tragedy that so many have gone through with AIDS, it forever changed me.

As a straight, white, non-drug using male I was forced to confront the uncertainty and anxiety that so many live with every day. I will never look at AIDS or the people that suffer from it the same way again.

james williamson  1 Dec 2000

I have had little personal experience with HIV. For this I am thankful.

But I have seen AIDS darken the lives of those around me.

A friend lost her brother to the disease.

Other friends have family and friends coping with it now.

But the most profound experience was during my visit to East Africa, when I learned that one in ten - sometimes more - will die from AIDS.

My guide had lost his sister and brother in law, and was now raising their children as well as his own. All of the people I met know someone who is dead, someone who is dying or someone who soon will be.

Mightyjimbo {mightyjimbo1@home.com1 Dec 2000



I celebrated a Day Without Art last year. I coloured my site black and posted a poem written by my aunt, now dead five years from AIDS-related complications.

Everyone else knew she was sick. Everyone else knew her old boyfriend had lied to her, then gleefully admitted his deceit in the midst of an argument. I didn't know. All I knew is that suddenly my mother was making lots of family visits that excluded me, that word was going around that Cathy was sick, but nothing major.

To this day, I don't know what possessed my family to think that I would shun Cathy if I knew. Granted, I was a teenager- but not a heartless one, not an ignorant one.

All I know is that I am still bitter, and that there are six years of my life that I wish I could have back, just to see her more, to insinuate myself into her life, or what was left of it, once more before she died.

I no longer celebrate a Day Without Art. I think, in this case, I would like to act rather than proselytize. The trouble is finding the right actions to perform.

Brianna {brianna@utopian.net1 Dec 2000

I remember when I went to my first US college, this little Deaf guy from a small seaside town in Nova Scotia. I had transferred down from being a history major in Halifax at Dal, to a photography major at NTID/RIT. There were so many different people there, and I've always been uncomfortable with myself, never mind with others.

One Quarter, I Decided to take a dance class in the Theatre department, which was being taught by Michael Thomas. He was an extremely intelligent and creative guy, and one day, after class, he came up to me and a couple of other classmates, asking if we were interested in performing in the college dance production of Cinderella? Some students had dropped out of the production, and they were desperately short on people.

Performing in front of people? For me, dance class was bad enough, but, the moment he asked, I immediately said, "Yes", which made me wonder, afterwards, if I was going nuts...

Michael managed to bring me out of my shell, he had confidence in me and all his performers. Rehersal was incredible and brutal, but the final performances came off wonderfully. From there, I was fully involved with theatre, if not performing, at least photographing.

But I noticed since I started the class and rehearsals, he had been losing weight steadily, and sometimes become extremely agitated during rehearsals. I didn't think anything of it, figuring it was probably stress or something.

But, one of the other teachers, his assistant, told me in confidence that he had AIDS. I was dumbfounded, had no idea. Here was this man, who had manged to help not only me discover myself, but many, many other students, Deaf and hearing alike, wasting away before us.

The next couple of years, he would show up and work when he had the opportunity, refusing to let the disease stop him fom teaching, being involved with the students. But, time went on, and we saw him less and less.

I moved back to Halifax in the fall of 1997. My girlfriend then, who was still at RIT, forwarded me a college bulletin thru email, saying Michael had passed away in October, that year.

Words alone cannot describe our gratitude to him, nor the loss we feel.

Jason {jason@dispossessed.com1 Dec 2000



How has my life been touched by AIDS? Kenny, James, Ted, Henry, Bubby, Craig, Michael, Eddie, Jason, Robbie, Kip, John, Sidney, Chuck, Roxanne......the list goes on. All friends who died from AIDS. My life has been touched with voids, empty spaces and clouded memories. My friends are in heaven. My solace is believing that I will reunite with them some day. My faith has become stronger. I no longer fear death. I have never been more touched.

Laura {mojogriz@aol.com1 Dec 2000

i've given nearly 6 gallons of blood over the last 14 years. in that time the list of screening questions and procedures has nearly tripled.

every time i go i'm asked if i've taken drugs intravenously, if i've paid for sex, if i've had sex with a man, even once, since 1977, and an array of other pretty uncomfortable questions.

yeah, you can't help but think about it when you get the list of the behaviors read to you every few months.

when 2 of my gay friends got really sick my heart sank assuming the worst. luckily, they didn't have hiv, but they might have. and it stopped me cold.

christopher naze  1 Dec 2000



Jimmy was my landlord . He was a friend of a friend and he rented me a room in his house in Beverly, Massachussets when I came back from Europe in April of 1994 and tried to get a life. He was a painter and a teacher and had lots of friends who gathered for noisy feasts in his kitchen. He rented rooms in his house to actors who passed through the Northshore Music Theatre, and the house often was filled with laughter and music and the sounds of singers warming up, and dancers practicing their moves in the hallway.

When I met him Jimmy already had AIDS, but I didn't know it then, even though I noticed his pallor and his hollow checks. That summer he got sick for the first time. I came back from the beach one day in July, tanned and salty from the ocean and I heard him cough up in his room. It was the way he caughed and didnt stop that told me something was very wrong. His voice was desperate and thin when he cried: "Please come help me." I found him on his bed, hot and bathed in sweat and gasping for breath. I sat with him, held his hand and cooled his forehead and bony chest with a wet washcloth and talked to him in a soothing voice until he calmed and his breath became more even. I put a thermometer in his mouth and it read 104.5. He told me he had AIDS. He finally let me call an ambulance and they came and put oxygen on him and carried him down the stairs.

He stayed in the hospital for 10 days. They diagnosed Pneumocystis pneumonia, and a constant drip of antibiotics and a steady flow of friends and family through his hospital room got him back on his feet after a while. He came home and a nurse came to give him intravenous antibiotics every day and his mom came to cook him soup and his friends came to keep him company. He seemed quite happy with all the attention and after a while he even went back to work.

At Christmastime there was a big dinnerparty in his house, but he was pale and quit and his smile was sad and his eyes sometimes focused at a point very far away. We went to see " A Christmas Carol" together, courtesy of the actors who stayed at our house. He went to Florida for a vacation alone and came back depressed and thinner than he was before.

One night in February I found him on the couch having a seizure. Again the ambulance drove him away and this time the diagnosis was myeloma, cancer of the brain. They put a stint in his head to administer antibiotics right to his brain. When he regained conciousness he was somehow transformed, gentle and naive like a child. I visited him at the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston almost every day. He tired easily and sometimes didnt want to see anybody. We baked him pot brownies to get his appetite up and his former lover and I sat at his bedside and shared the brownies with him.

I was the last to see him alive. I put on Sade love songs for him one night and massaged his bony frame with scented oil and he went to sleep and never woke up.

Jimmy Sawyer died February 15th, 1995 at age 37

Susanne {sanne@zoomedia.com1 Dec 2000

Firstly I think in some way everbody should be aware that live is different because of that Virus. Also as i am a family help,help People at their home and I worked at people houses who were seropositiv or had aids. i guess when you are already ill, you have aids...(yes, I still have questions)Also one boyfriend of one of my best friends took drugs and is seropositiv here in Brussles we have every first December a march ( yes I should be there) First time I went, they put a Preservativdress to manekken Pis ( local Statue of a little men who pisses (i think he is well known) made by a local Hutartist then the second time we could put the names of people we knew passed over at a big patchwork (in a Metrostation here) But today I just feel not good at all and it rains...I really couldn't force myself joining all alone that march. Sandra

sandra {sandy@mailsurf.com1 Dec 2000



My friends Craig and John both died of AIDS in the early 1990s.

Craig was a wonderful talented classical flute player I went to school with at CalArts. I always enjoyed playing music with him, and hanging out and having fun. I remember especially the fun we had playing Vivaldi concertos and Handel arias. It was a big saddening shock to me when I got the news he died from AIDS - I had no idea he was sick. I had lost touch with him for several months at that point, and I came to learn that he let himself go quickly after learning he was HIV positive. I know his parents were ashamed their son was gay. This still makes me very angry.

John was HIV positive before I met him. His lover, Ken, was a good friend of mine. I liked John a lot from the moment met him, at a dinner party in Newhall, CA, and that set the stage for a nice friendship. I remember when John began to really deteriorate physically, it made me truly confront the fact that he had AIDS, and it made me sad. At times, he seemed to get better, but always took the proverbial "two steps back." I had moved to Berkeley while he was still sick; we got notice from Ken that John had died from AIDS. Even though it was expected, it was still a shock, and I was very sad.

I miss both of them very much. Today has caused me to think a lot about them and remember the good times we had together, even though I feel sad right now. This year I did the AIDS Walk in San Francisco, and I thought about them then, too. I raised close to $800. I'm really proud of that.

I'm nervous for my friends Kathryn and Dan, who are doing work in Uganda right now. I know the presence of AIDS is a major concern for them.

I want to thank Derek Powazek for this forum to submit my thoughts. My prayers and go out to all of you who have been touched either directly or indirectly by HIV/AIDS. Love to you all.

meg cotner {megct@earthlink.net1 Dec 2000

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{ 8 JUN 2005: Posting has been discontinued. }